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Gujarat riots 2002: Teesta Setalvad moves Gujarat High Court for quashing of case by SIT

Former journalist and human rights activist Teesta Setalvad has filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court seeking to quash the case lodged against her on alleged charges of fabricating documents to file cases in connection with the Gujarat riots of 2002.

Filed by Senior Advocate Mihir Thakore on Monday, the plea sought quashing of the case registered by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) against Setalvad, who is also the Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace, an organisation formed to fight for the victims of 2002 Gujarat riots.

On July 1, the Supreme Court had granted interim bail to Setalvad. The three-Judge Vacation Bench of Justice B.R. Gavai, Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice Dipankar Datta stayed the Gujarat High Court order, which directed Setalvad to surrender immediately before the Gujarat Police and listed the matter for hearing before a regular Bench of the Apex Court.

Earlier on July 1, the High Court of Gujarat had refused to grant bail to Setalvad. The order was passed by the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Nirzar Desai.

Appearing for Setalvad, Senior Advocate Mihir Thakore had requested the High Court to stay the operation of the verdict for 30 days. However, the Single-Judge bench rejected the request and directed Setalvad to immediately surrender before the police.

Gujarat Police had arrested the activist on June 25, 2022 on alleged charges that she fabricated documents to frame high-ranking officials, including the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in cases related to violence that took place in Gujarat after the Godhra train burning incident in 2002. 

Setalvad, who is also the Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace, an organisation formed to fight for the victims of 2002 Gujarat riots, was kept in police remand for seven days and sent to judicial custody on July 2.

On September 2, 2022, the Supreme Court had granted interim bail to Setalvad, directing her to surrender her passport till the matter was taken up by the High Court and ensure complete cooperation in the investigation.

The Bench of then Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit, Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia had further directed the Gujarat Police to release Setalvad on conditions, which the court deemed appropriate.

The Bench observed that Teesta Setalvad, a lady, has remained in custody since two months and the investigative machinery has had the advantage of custodial interrogation for a period of seven days.

The top court of the country had noted that the offences alleged against Teesta pertained to 2002 and at best, the concerned documents were sought to be produced by 2012.

Thus, the essential ingredients of investigation, including custodial interrogation having been completed, the matter assumed a complexion where the relief of interim bail was evidently made out, noted the Apex Court and granted interim bail to Teesta.

On September 1, 2022, the Apex Court had pulled up the Gujarat High Court over its order to list Setalvad’s bail plea for hearing on September 19, almost six weeks after issuing notice in the case.

Stating whether this was the ‘standard practice in Gujarat,’ the top court of the country had asked the government of Gujarat about the material they had gathered in the past two months against Setalvad.

The then CJI-led Bench had further noted that there was no grave offence, such as Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002 or the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, meaning that there was no statutory mandate against the grant of bail.

The top court of the country added that a lady was entitled to ‘favoured treatment’ in normal offences under Section 437 of the India Penal Code, thus granting her interim bail.

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